Patreon is Currently 20 CHAPTERS AHEAD.
One more push, and then we're moving on, to bigger and better things! Though it might feel a bit rushed, I had wanted the dungeon arc to end around this chapter count, and it had lasted far longer than expected. In an effort to not have this one dungeon last forever, I decided to expedite some of the less-important combat in favor of bigger battles in the future.
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From the entry hall of the twelfth floor, I took the lower left path once again. While I had defeated the royal warrior in the past, it was more of a tie than a true victory, my Survivor skill the only reason I limped away from the battle. The hallway was identical to what I remembered, complete with fake doors and elaborate tapestries. After a while, I came to the intersection and found my quarry.
The Royal Warrior sat right where it did before, either dormant or hiding on the ceiling. I was far enough away that I was probably safe from the smaller eyes of this particular arachnid, so I started to charge up a spell for my preliminary attack. I charged it up but stopped around halfway when I realized the spell was far weaker than I was used to.
I was generating the icicles at a reasonable rate, but the amount I could sustain was cut down to a third of my previous amount. A bit put out, I stopped forming my icy spears, content to take it on the warrior with my sword and my claws. I decided to do what I could to stay in the larger, more open intersection, rather than get cornered in the hallway for a second time, so I brazenly charged into the spider’s territory.
Twenty feet out from the spider, it sprung into action, but I did as well. The hail of ice I sent its way didn’t manage to penetrate the armor plating, but it did force the spider to raise its scimitar-like arms to protect its beady eyes. I landed, using the new techniques of the Beginner Art of the Lightning to rapidly approach. Instead of a sword attack, I opted for a classic wound-up punch, straight to the top of the warrior’s head. Under the extreme force of the attack due to my increased strength and speed, the spider was forced down into a crouching position. I watched with satisfaction as my attack dented the surface of the warrior’s head, popping one of its smaller eyes in the process like a balloon. Perhaps the day I could take the royal warrior’s on barehanded wasn’t too far off. The warrior, ever cautious, took some distance. It knew I could hurt it, and decided to play it safe.
I had the initiative in this fight, but it didn’t want me to keep it that way. The spider was just a quick as ever, and it moved with finesse. I pushed forwards to follow, but it had enough time to raise it scimitars and prepare its assault. Its forms were familiar, so instead of dodging backward, this time I opted to take a different approach. I stepped even closer to the spider, using the Beginner Art of the Blizzard to dodge the attacks as they came, my entire body moving in a blur as blade after the blade fell towards me. I slipped up many times, the skill not perfect, and the spider moving at extreme speeds able to keep up ever so slightly.
I watched as my stamina started to rapidly tick down. I had a time limit, and I needed to move. I lashed out, now incorporating the double-attack skill from the Beginner Art of the Blizzard to land kicks, punches, and slashes on the spider wherever I could. For every one attack I received, I delivered five more, and the warrior was being worn down. Its defeat was unceremonious. At one moment it was retaliating with ferocity, and the next, it wavered with exhaustion. There were dents all along its body from my kicks and punches, and it bled profusely from multiple wounds. It fell to the ground after a pained shriek, falling unconscious due to blood loss. I finished it off with a quick stab to the head.
One down, ninety-nine to go.
I brushed away the level up announcement as I sat down to meditate. I would rest for ten minutes, then continue on my way. There was a lot of work to be done.
I stumbled and my sword clattered to the ground. I bent down to pick it up, nearly falling over in exhaustion from the effort. I needed a break. I had managed to slay all of the warriors, but I could barely walk anymore. One thing that I hadn’t quite realized was that stamina didn’t exactly represent how much you could exercise your body without stopping. I had depleted my stamina bar over fifteen times today, and though it was full yet again, I was both physically and mentally exhausted, my muscles sore, and my head aching. I sat down again, my back against the wall, and pulled up the alerts from this floor.
Skill Alert! Level Up! Current Status Increased!
Identify – lvl 14 -> 15
Tempered body – lvl 3 -> 5 – increase strength or agility in a 5/1 stamina/stat ratio for 1 second
Uncanny Sight – lvl 13 -> 17
Meditation – lvl 35 -> 36
Combat Skills: 516 xp
Light Armor Mastery – lvl 1 -> 14 – reduces noise generated by light armor by (14%)
Swordsmanship – lvl 9 -> 16 – reduces stamina cost of using a sword by (16%)
Parry – lvl 1 -> 5 – reduces stamina cost of blocking by (5%)
Elemental Mastery – water (15 -> 19), order (1 -> 7)
Aether Channeling – lvl 1 -> 3
One Body – lvl 1 -> 3
Lone Wanderer – lvl 62 -> 70 – increased money drop rate when exploring alone (20%)
Current Status Increases:
Level 30 -> 35 (1086/3988)
Wow. That was far more extensive than I thought. It had been quite some time since I had seen a sheet this long, and it took me a few minutes to read and understand all of the changes. My stats had once again capped out. I had also increased my base level by a staggering five, each royal warrior dropping between two and five hundred experience and bringing my level up rapidly.
As expected, Swordsmanship, Parry, and Light Armor Mastery had all increased by a reasonable amount. My healing skills, One Body and Aether Channeling, had also seen growth. I had used primarily water magic on this floor to heal after being wounded and to defend when necissary. It was likely that order magic was a big part of healing, as I had shockingly increased my order attunement a full seven levels.
The most useful increase was Tempered Body. I had brought it up to level 5 using it with Beginner Art of the Lightning, and I had managed to learn better about how the skill worked through trial and error. After checking the levels in the skill, I brought up the description once more. It had changed slightly as I used it.
Your mastery over your body allows you to tap into the natural energy that it produces. You can channel stamina into certain actions, making them more powerful, increasing either strength or agility in a (5/1) stamina/stat ratio for 1 second. 60-second cooldown. Limited by Constitution.
I supposed whoever was in charge of the skill had noticed the vague description and fixed it. The information on the use of the skill had increased, letting me learn more about how it worked. It was a very powerful ability, but it was a double-edged sword. I could exceed the limits as they were stated in the description as I had done against the Knight on the fifth floor, but in exchange, I would injure myself severely. I had pushed those limits so many times it was a wonder my constitution hadn’t increased again.
The most impressive development was the massive increase in Lone Wanderer’s level. I guess all of the combat and my improved solo fighting style had brought it up by leaps and bounds, though the bonuses it granted were still rather useless. I had not managed to find a single treasure chest on this floor, so yet again my increased drop rates were useless.
That being said, I had quite a lot of loot in my monster bag. I took a dozen shields and sabers to sell when I got back to the city, and I had also carved plenty of chitin off of the spiders to sell as materials. Most impressively, I had managed to kill one hundred of these spiders, but I had not found a single monster core. It just went to show how rare they were.
As I meditated to heal and rest my mind, I thought back on how the day had gone. Dungeon floor twelve was laid out in two levels accessed through multiple stairwells. There were three concentric circles of hallways at the base of the castle, and the large pie-shaped floor was divided into eight by hallways. On the outer ring, there were 16 intersections if you considered that there were two levels, and each one contained a royal warrior in one of three variants.
There was the standard saber wielding ones that I encountered first, but there was also a variety with one shield-like arm instead of dual sabers, and a third that had eight legs and who wielded potent poison magic. The shield ones were the easiest to deal with. I would just pummel their shield with bare-handed attacks while they turtled behind it, and when they would spring out to fight back, I would dodge with the Blizzard art and strike back with the Lightning art.
The mages though were a different story. They were annoying as hell, and unlike the spitters, had no limitations on attack direction, speed, and pattern. They were able to summon orbs of acid, similar to my own abilities with water, and would send them at me from all directions. Even worse, they were cloaked in a poisonous aura that would damage me when I got too close. My only chance was to cloak my body in water and move in quickly, finishing them with my sword as fast as possible. Luckily their defenses weren’t too hard.
The first inner ring had a similar assortment of royal warriors, but occasionally they would be in small groups, and I would be forced to lure one away down a hall so I could engage them one at a time. The next ring had the same problem, but the corridors were wider, and occasionally I was forced to engage two warriors at once. That was extremely difficult, but I was able to succeed by pitting them against each other. They were too large to attack me simultaneously up close, so I could still cordon them off and fight the spiders one by one.
The final ring had the most enemies, thirty-two in total, and they all came in pairs. I similarly killed them as I did in the previous ring, but these fights were by far the most exhausting. The very center of the circular castle held four warriors, two sword and shield, one dual saber, and one mage, and they presented by far the most exhausting fight. There refused to leave the room, and I was forced to fight them all at once. It was a long, uphill battle, and I had almost fallen to zero health, but at the last minute, the mage made a mistake. He hit one of the shield spiders in the back with poison while targeting me, allowing me to quickly kill both the mage and one shield warrior, then retreat. The spiders didn’t come back, so I just killed the two remaining as I had done the previous ring, and that was that.
After a light channeling of aether into my sore muscles, I felt ready to continue a bit further. There should be no more enemies on this floor, so I could take a breather, but I would remain cautious just in case. I ascended a spiral staircase in the very center of the level, which let out into a familiar rectangular room.
The space was almost identical to the one in which I’d seen the previous spider shop, though this was noticeably nicer. The statues on the right depicted the three guardians as well as the three variety of warriors, but instead of stone, they appeared cast from gold. The floor was covered in a nice carpet, and the ceiling was hung with sparkling chandeliers lit with magic.
On the left of the room was an impressively upgraded spider shack, this one made from stone bricks, and it was complete with a nice shingled roof. I approached, interested to see if another spider was working this one.
George Hissington Sr. (Skullback Merchant) (Rank 2) – lvl 40
George Hissington Sr. was practically identical to his offspring, though his junior was only level twenty-five and had blue rarity. This shop keeper also seemed far more sophisticated than his younger counterpart, as he had a snazzy bow tie, a luscious well-trimmed beard, a fancy monocle, and a black silk top hat. Now that I was closer to the shack, I could hear some relaxing upbeat instrumental music coming from somewhere, giving the shop a lively atmosphere.
“Yes, I’m just here to look at your wares.”
“So, are you the other George’s father?”
screeEEEEeech *hiss* gurgle
“Ah, right… of course.”
I still had no idea what it meant, so I just responded as best I could. The spider looked satisfied, so obviously I wasn’t too far off. I looked around and inspected the wares, looking for something that would catch my eye. Like before, I spotted a single recipe that I found deeply interesting.
Royal Warrior Bow (recipe) – single-use
“I’d like the bow recipe, as well as two heath, and two mana potions, please.”
He gave me a price in a very similar manner to the other George, meaning lots of leg waving. I was able to pay him with what I had without worry, though the prices were far steeper than before. It probably wasn’t bad if you consider the actual price of the recipe, but it did cost almost a third of my money, with a price of one large gold and seven smalls.
I bid my farewells and walked to the end of the hall, where the doorway at the end of the floor sat. I placed my hand on it, preparing to return to the hub. Before that though, I received an interesting alert.
Alert! Floor 12/15 Cleared! Experience Calculated!
Floor challenge: complete floor within 24 hours: 2000xp
Large clearance reward granted.
Total Experience: 12,037 (+35% from bonuses)
It was the first time the floor clearance alert had been anything of note. According to the message, I had gained 10,000 experience from killing the royal warriors, a truly staggering amount. That same number would have brought me from level 1 to level 20 in one straight shot, but here it granted five levels. This was also the first time I had received an additional experience reward from defeating the floor, the additional 2000 exp taking me to the cusp of level 36. Without returning to the hub, I waited patiently for the chest to appear.
When it finally showed up, it was rather small considering the value of the reward, only around the size of a jewelry box, but its contents were nothing to scoff at.
Gilded Spider Thread (Rank 2) –This spider thread was spun by a powerful arachnid at the peak of rank 2 and can be added to clothes to increase their strength.
I put the thread into my monster pouch and left the twelfth floor. In the hub, I found Kaitlyn already tucked into a sleeping bag and fast asleep, her soft snores making me even more exhausted. I laid out my sleeping bag next to hers and quickly fell asleep to the sound of her breathing in the otherwise completely quiet room.
I awoke to the crackle of a plastic wrapper, opening my eyes to find Kaitlyn opening up a granola bar. Seeing me wake up, she smiled, rifling through her backpack and bringing out a second bar for me to eat. Holding it out to me, she grinned!
“Morning... Con… congratulations on finishing the twelfth floor.”
I grabbed the bar, opened the package, and took a bite. It was peanut butter, my favorite. I guess Kaitlyn was back to her subdued self. The last time we talked was when she was exhausted from combat, and I wasn’t sure that counted. It was like she was a completely different person, then.
“Morning Kaitlyn. Thanks for the food. What floor did you just finish? Ten or eleven?”
“Did you see the spider shop? Did they have anything nice?”
She nodded her head and gestured to her belt which now sported an interesting-looking spool of thread.
“What is that?”
“Cutting thread. Good for thread techniques.”
I thought back to when I was a kid watching anime. I do recall that some cartoon ninjas used thread to terrifying effect, and was interested to see it in real life. Maybe I would ask her for a demonstration when we got back to town. And if I remembered in the first place.
“That’s super cool. Did you get any skills for it yet?”
She nodded again, her ears gently flopping up and down.
“Good for you. That sounds fun.”
I turned and started to pack up my supplies, preparing to move onto the thirteenth floor, and I noticed that Kaitlyn started to do the same. It was nice to have a conversation, but we were both here to explore and improve. Once I was ready to head out, I went ahead and filled Kaitlyn in on the guardians of the eleventh floor, and what they were all about. I also did my utmost to impress on her the difficulty of the twelfth floor, and the sheer increase in fighting proficiency of the spiders, but she just nodded, seemingly unconcerned, and turned to the teleporter, leaving me alone.
I was worried for her, but after a bit of thought, I decided it was best that she improver herself independent of me. Her sneak attack ability was probably no joke after making it through the entire ninth floor and the tenth-floor boss, and when she left the eleventh, I was sure she would be even stronger still. Her level had already passed 50, I was positive she was well on her way to rank three, not unlike myself, though the exact means by which she would reach that rank was still a mystery. I took a deep breath, steadying myself, then set off into the next teleporter.
The thirteenth floor had a very similar appearance to the twelfth, but instead of an orderly layout, this one was yet another maze. The maze was populated with clusters of royal warriors, though it was still very rare to encounter more than one or two at a time. It was extremely straight forward, and after my experiences in the winding tunnels of the sixth and seventh floors, the ninety-degree turns here made mapping and understanding where I was a cinch.
As this was a maze floor, I needed to be wary of traps. Once, when I was calmly walking down a corridor, all of the sharp metal chandeliers started falling from the ceiling, violently exploding into shrapnel when they hit the ground. I was able to channel ice into my wings and bunker down, avoiding damage, but it certainly came as a surprise. Another time, I came into a room full of spider statues, which started spewing poison into the air after I passed by, forcing me to flee.
I also made sure to check many of the random doors scattered through the halls, but I found that once again, they were all fake. I did, however, manage to find three additional treasure chests that gifted me around thirty more small gold coins, as well as an uncommon dagger.
Spider Fang Dagger: A sharp dagger made from a spider’s fang.
Mana Conductivity: 2
The floor was sprawling and massive, the map taking up four full pages in the notebook, but after around eight hours of wandering, I managed to find the exit. It was guarded by six royal warriors, two of each variety. They were all hibernating right in front of the door, and I knew I would have to kill them to pass, so I pulled them towards me one at a time using some carefully thrown copper coins.
The coins were harmless, of course, but after being hit, the spiders would wake up and then leave the room to investigate. I would then ambush them one by one, safely clearing the room.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I placed my hand on the door and got another message.
Alert! Floor 13/15 Cleared! Experience Calculated!
Floor challenge: complete floor within 9 hours: 2000xp
Total Experience: 7,465 (+25% from bonuses)
I was happy to see that I got yet another floor clearance boon. I had no additional reward, but because of the treasure chests, I was more than satisfied. I guess the last few floors grant bonuses if you finish them within the correct timeframe, though considering how difficult they were, if the party was still around the middle of rank 2, making that goal would be extremely difficult. The experience was enough to bring me to halfway between levels 37 and 38. I was so close to rank 3 I could practically taste it.
I had been walking and hunting all day and was more than ready for a brief break. I returned to the hub to sleep. Tomorrow I would take on the very last floor before the final boss.